The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Texas death row inmate Larry Swearingen a stay of execution yesterday, three weeks before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection. Swearingen says he was wrongfully convicted, and this is the third time he has received a stay as execution nears. Twice before, he came within one day of lethal injection.
Swearingen was convicted 11 years ago of the rape and murder of a 19-year-old college student and sentenced to death. Witnesses said they saw the victim leaving her college campus with Swearingen the night she disappeared, reported The Texas Tribune. Swearingen admitted to seeing her earlier that day for lunch and although they had a sexual relationship, he has maintained his innocence in the rape and murder conviction.
“The district attorney took evidence of a friendship and turned it into a murder,” Swearingen said in an interview with the Tribune at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston a day before the stay was issued.
Three days after the victim disappeared, Swearingen was arrested on unrelated traffic warrants. Experts who examined the victim’s body said that decomposition showed that she could have been in the woods for a few days up to two weeks, meaning the murder occurred after Swearingen was incarcerated. The Innocence Project is working with James Rytting, Swearingen’s lead attorney, and the rest of Swearingen’s legal team to advocate for a hearing on this scientific evidence.